With the Andes stretching its entire length, Peru is ideal trekking holiday destination.
Peru offers some of the most magnificent and varied trekking in the Andes chain, ranging from three days to two weeks.
Here we offer advice and ideas on the best treks throughout Peru.
Don your boots, and set off on your adventure walking holiday.
Trekking in Peru – an introduction
In Peru, we find a number of the mightiest snow peaks outside the Himalayas, with major concentrations of 6,000m/19,685ft peaks in 4 ranges:
In the spectacular Cordillera Blanca, there are some 30 peaks above 6,000m – including Huascarán, Peru’s highest (6,768m/22,206ft) – and the largest concentration of tropical zone glaciers on Earth.
The Huayhuash range contains a cluster of stunning peaks, of which the highest, Yerupajá (6,634m/21,766ft), is Peru’s 2nd highest. An awesome trekking circuit loops the entire range.
The Cusco region
The Cordilleras Vilcabamba and Vilcanota near Cusco provide some of the best and most varied trekking in Peru, from breathtaking tundra to steaming sub tropical jungle.
The Vilcabamba, criss-crossed by Inca paths linking enigmatic ruins, offers trekking routes of varying lengths, from the Inca Trail to the Choquekirau traverse.
Vilcanota, characterised by scattered llama-herding communities, is dominated by Ausangate (6,384m/20,946ft).
A single trek in any of these ranges can combine icy tundra with temperate valleys and cloud forest.
Remote archaeological ruins are often a feature, as when exploring the little-known Chachapoyas region in Peru’s forested extreme north, or the mythical realms of Vilcabamba.
The best trekking months in Peru are May to September, when warm, dry days coincide with cold nights; night temperatures can drop a few degrees below zero at high camps.
April and October/November hold afternoon shower risks, but nights are milder than May to September (these months are also the quietest in terms of numbers).
December to March is the wet season in the Andes.
The Cordilleras Vilcabamba and Vilcanota
The mountains and valleys of the Cusco area provide high passes, breathtaking snow peaks, sub-tropical jungle and some excellent & varied trekking. The Vilcabamba Range to the north of Cusco is criss-crossed by finely-engineered Inca paths only recently reclaimed from the Cloud Forest.
These interlink many enigmatic ruins, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu being the best-known, and one of our most popular treks.
The Inca Trail trek is deservedly the most famous footpath in South America, and we offer both a standard and luxury service. It has everything: gorgeous mountain scenery, cloudforest and lush sub-tropical vegetation with numerous species of flowers, a stunning final destination in Machu Picchu and, above all, the Inca remains that give the trail its name.
There are Inca paving stones, Inca stairways, an Inca tunnel, and of course the ruins: Runkuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Huiñay Huayna (Wiñay Wayna) and Machu Picchu itself.
Community tourism is a strong concern for us. Andean Trails makes a donation to a Porter’s Community Project near Cusco for every person that books the Inca Trail through us. Currently, this money is being used to buy school equipment in the towns and villages where our porters live.
Alternative Inca Trails
We also offer alternative treks to the Machu Picchu ruins.
You can trek the Salkantay route, a rugged rout, a stunning high-mountain walk with great views of the big snow-capped peaks in the area and ending at Machu Picchu. We offer a camping version and also a luxury, lodge-based version.
The Lares trek goes through a traditional weaving & farming area close to the Sacred Valley. You will see people dressed in authentic highland Peruvian clothing, farmers at work, herds of llamas etc. This trek is beautiful and not as tough as Salkantay but incredibly beautiful and rewarding. There is also a lodge-based version.
And we also have Huchuy Qosqo, a fantastically varied and short trek with Inca Trails and the Qosqo ruins. You enjoy a hearty evening meal cooked by a local host at Huchuy Qosqo, whose home is your shelter for the night, and see a wide variety of local flora and fauna.
The Ausangate range
The Vilcanota Range, located 100km south of Cusco, is dominated by the 6,384m Ausangate, and conceals scattered communities of traditionally-dressed Indians tending llamas and alpacas.
We offer a community-run, lodge-based trek here, as well as a camping option.
In Ausangate, you encounter llama herders, stunning rock colours and formations, dramatic peaks and hardly any hikers.
The Cordillera Blanca
Worldwide, only the Andean range offers the mountain grandeur of the Himalayas.
Within the Andes, the Cordillera Blanca has few peers; with some 30 peaks over 6,000m/19,685ft, including Peru’s highest, Huascarán (6,768m/22,205ft), the Cordillera Blanca is the world’s highest tropical mountain range with the greatest concentration of tropical zone glaciers.
It also boasts some of the most magnificent scenery in the Andes. Blanca treks below start and finish in Huaraz.
The Santa Cruz Trek
Santa Cruz is the classic trekking route of the Cordillera Blanca. As well as showcasing some wonderful scenery, this route allows a relatively gentle ascent helping acclimatisation.
The Punta Union pass (4,750m/15,584ft) offers awesome panoramas.
The trek includes the Portachuelo de Llanganuco viewpoint (4,765m/15,633ft), a spectacular vantage point to take in views of some of the Blanca’s best-known snow peaks
This 135km / 84 miles trek, one of the most complete and beautiful in the Blanca, is also (for long sections) one of the quietest.
It is so named because we get to see the pyramidal form of Alpamayo, voted the world’s most beautiful mountain in a 1960s poll.
Alpamayo takes us over seven passes of between 4,400-4,850m/14,436-15,912ft, with splendid views of many spectacular Cordillera Blanca peaks.
The route is technically straightforward but due to the long distance and altitude, demands good acclimatisation and physical fitness.
Route of the Condor – Quilcayhuanca/Ishinka
This exciting trek (45 miles / 70km approx.) takes in some of the most scenically dramatic and little-walked valleys and passes of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range.
Our Blanca takes us past numerous jewel-like glacial lakes and over two spectacular high passes (5,100m/16,732ft and 5,350m/17,553ft), and also provides excellent opportunities for sighting condors and superb mountain views throughout.
The Cordillera Huayhuash range
The Huayhuash rises dramatically from rolling grassland 50km / 30 miles south of the Blanca. It is a magnificent range, featuring – in a single cluster – a dozen dramatic ice-clad summits.
A mere 35 kilometres from end to end, the remote Huayhuash range boasts seven summits above 6,000m/19,685ft; the high point on this imposing profile, Yerupaja (6,634m/21,765ft), is Peru’s second highest peak.
The heart of the cordillera is a pristine wilderness, with towering snow peaks, glaciers and sparkling lakes vying for the attention.
The Huayhuash range is the setting for our spectacular, demanding and rewarding trekking circuit (190km / 120 miles), during which the range of altitudes (2,750-5,000m/9,022-16,404ft) and tropical latitude combine to reveal many Andean ecosystems.
From Llamac (start and finish point), we head deep into the pristine wilderness. We are soon amid mighty snow peaks.
This clockwise circuit takes us over nine high passes (between 4,650-5,000m/15,256-16404ft), with repeated panoramas of sheer, towering snow peaks. It also allows rewarding side trips into valleys and the option to ascend the non-technical, but physically challenging, Suerococha snow peak (5,350m/17,553ft).
Chachapoyas, a remote region of sub-tropical forest in Northeast Peru, is becoming famous for its mysterious pre-Inca archaeological sites.
The Chachapoyan civilization developed here around 800 AD, with ‘cloud people’ inhabiting ridge-top citadels in the cloud forest. Hereabouts, forest-covered ruins unknown to science are periodically stumbled upon.
We have a variety of treks through the heart of the Chachapoyas realm, some following a section of the great Inca highway (Qapaq Ñan) that connected Quito with Cusco, but all exploring rarely visited mountain fortresses.
MOUNTAINEERING AND CLIMBING COURSES
Whether you’re a beginner looking for an introduction or instruction, or a climber in search of new challenges, the Peruvian Andes have much to offer.
All expeditions, fully supported or not, are led by professional mountain guides with long experience in the specific mountain area.
Check our climbing tours here.
A number of snow peaks in Peru’s Cordilleras Blanca and Urubamba, as well as some volcanoes in Peru’s south, can be categorized as Trekking Peaks and may be ideal for your first ascent.
Usually somewhere between 5,000-5,800m/16,404ft-19,029ft in height, and requiring the use of crampons and ice-axe, these ascents, though physically demanding, are not technically difficult and do not require previous mountaineering experience.
Three-day non-technical ascents (including hikes to and from the mountain) include Pisco, Ishinka and Maparaju, among many others.
Pisco (5,752m/18,871ft) and a two-day ascent of Arequipa’s El Misti volcano (5,800m/19,029ft) are excellent choices for the first-timer, the mountaineer with limited experience on snow and ice, or as an acclimatisation peak for climbers going on to higher peaks.
A two or three-week itinerary can be designed to incorporate one or more trekking peaks into a trek.
Mountaineering skills course
The aim of our six-day course, in the Cordillera Blanca, is to teach a range of fundamental mountaineering skills.
During the course, which takes place at around 5,000m/16,404ft on one of three glaciers, we aim to develop the techniques required to prepare aspiring climbers, with little or no mountaineering experience, to be contributing team members on glaciated mountains.
We begin by looking at the many hazards snow peaks present, and then systematically teach the skills and techniques necessary to help you climb and enjoy the mountains.
Areas covered are self-arrest, climbing knots, rope team travel, snow and ice anchors, belay systems, crevasse rescue, top-rope management, an introduction to vertical ice climbing, route finding, hypothermia treatment and prevention, and glaciology.
And the finale is a guided climb of Yanapaqcha, where you put your new skills to the test.
Climbing near Huaraz
For mountaineers with more experience we can provide qualified local mountain guides and full back-up teams.
Here to help
Andean Trails provide fully-supported treks which include good camp food, transportation of kit by donkey or porter, emergency horse, professional trek guide, assistant and cook, good mountain tents and sleeping mats, mess tent, tables, stools and a toilet tent. Then again, if you are happier with the bare minimum of services, we can arrange that too.
For most treks a basic level of walking experience and a good level of fitness are the only requirements – these do vary from trek to trek.
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We had an absolutely amazing trip and everything was perfect.
Highlights – there were loads of highlights. We loved Quito – especially the morning we went up the Teleferico. We could see for miles over the city to snow capped Volcanos beyond. Our Equador guide and driver were brilliant – Miguel and Memo. They went out or their way to make sure we saw as much as possible – we wouldn’t have seen or learned as much without them. We saw humming bird, toucans, tangers and a fantastic bird of prey sanctuary that wasn’t on the original schedule.
The Galapagos Islands were amazing. Again we saw so much and the guides were brilliant. They were so enthusiastic about their islands, the animals and conservation.
Accommodation etc – the hotels were all excellent. We loved the quirkyness of the hotel in Quito. The staff were very helpful and friendly. The Septimo Paraiso eco lodge in the cloud forest and the Hacienda Las Palmeras near Otavalo were great – the food at Las Palmeras was really excellent. The airport hotel was spotless and friendly but the set meal of Spaghetti bolognese wasn’t great to be honest. We ate in some lovely restaurants and the guides picked some lovely places to stop for food.
Sol y Mar on Santa Cruz was lovely too.
We loved Hotel Albemarle on Isabela. It was a perfect place to spend 5 nights. The rooms were comfy, clean with lovely balconies and views. There were some really good local restaurants, especially Coco surf, recommended by Tania, our Isabela guide.
The company that did our trip to Los Tuneles were fantastic. The guide was so enthusiastic and determined that we would see loads of wildlife. He took loads of photos with his gopro then downloaded them all for us for free when we got back. The lunch on the boat that day was chicken and rice which all three of my kids said was the best lunch they’d had all holiday. It might have been because they were all cold and knackered – they even took the hot sweet tea on offer.
I hope we benefitted the local communities. We enjoyed our trips to the coffee plantation and the chocolate factory and certainly brought plenty of chocolate and coffee back with us. I would like to think that the money we spent goes in someway to help conservation efforts and to keep the cloud forests and the Galapagos Islands as special and unique as they clearly are.
We picked Andean trails because you are based in Scotland and seemed to understand out requirements and came up with a perfect sounding itinary. Flying from Galsgow via Amsterdam worked well and for us was definitely the quickest and easiest way to get there.
Everything worked out perfectly. We had a totally brilliant time. I think it is all still sinking in...
L. Keany, UK, Aug 2019
» 4-day Ecuador Family Holiday
The highlight of the climb was the whole experience from meeting the crew to training on the glacier to getting as far as I did.
Hats off to the crew. They all did a great job - everyone of them. Osvaldo was great throughout the entire few days; Alex the cook made some great food with some of the other climbers in the high hut commenting about how good the food looked. Thanks also to the porter Adrian.
I thought the climb was pretty tough overall considering the altitude. Had to catch my breath a few times. Osvaldo was great though and went at a pretty steady pace with lots of guidance.
I chose Huyana Potosi because it was an achieveable 6,000m peak. I didn't summit but enjoyed the whole trip.
Mike Stringfellow, Aug, Aug 2019
» Climb Huayna Potosi in Bolivia
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